Understand Your Comprehension Passage

3 Ways to Better Understand Your Comprehension Passage

Hello, everyone! This is Miss Elysia, a teacher at Lil’ but Mighty! Throughout my years of teaching, one question my students always ask me is this: “I know how to answer the questions using the answering techniques, but I don’t understand the passage. HOW!” Today, I’m going to give you three tips to help you understand your comprehension passage better. Let’s go!

1. Trace the Nouns and Subject Pronouns


Understand Your Comprehension Passage

Wasn’t that confusing? So many “she” pronouns were being used!

What if you identify the character you want to trace instead? First, assign a specific colour to that character. In this example, we’ve used blue to trace Joey’s character. Next, all you need to do is use that colour to box out all the pronouns that describe Joey. Do the same for all the characters you want to trace, choosing a different colour for each character, as seen in the paragraph below!

Understand Your Comprehension Passage

Isn’t it much easier to understand? You can simply trace the characters by colour, and link her actions together! Now, it’ll never matter how many “she” pronouns your comprehension passage has. You’ll always know who’s doing what, as illustrated below:

Joey had a long day and wanted to sleep. She cried out for her sister to stop jumping on her bed. Joey begged her mother to stop her sister, and then heaved a sigh of relief.

Janice, Joey’s sister, did not want to stop jumping on the bed until she was forced to do so by their mother.

Mother entered with a frown on her face and commanded Janice to stop jumping.

Even though other pronouns like “her” and “their” are not picked out, you can trace them as well if you feel that doing so helps with your understanding.

2. Ask Questions


How many of you have experienced this before? You’re in your classroom and the ceiling fan is whirling quietly above. Your teacher has assigned you to read this comprehension passage which she will go through later, but you had a huge meal for recess and slept a little too late. Now, you can barely keep your eyes open. The words are swimming before your eyes!

Well, pick up your pen, and start asking yourself questions!

The constant act of writing keeps your eyes and hands active in a focused way. Additionally, with the constant act of asking questions, you will be able to better engage with the text. You will seem like you’re “talking” to the story, asking it “what happens here?”, “what do you mean!” and “what happens next?”. If you keep your eyes peeled, the story will reveal its secrets to you.

PSLE Comprehension Open-Ended

See what I’ve done? First, I circled all the words that I found difficult to understand. With these words, I must use contextual clues to understand them. For example, I might not understand “vast”. However, realising that the connector “but” was used to connect “small” with “vast”, I can make an intelligent guess that “vast” probably means the opposite of small.

Next, I underlined the details that seemed important to the story. At the side, I wrote down the questions I had regarding those important points. Notice that some questions are not answered in the paragraph itself. For example, we still do not know what exactly Tom’s plan is! That means that understanding Tom’s plan probably requires what we call global comprehension. You must piece together information throughout the text before you can fully understand Tom’s plan.

One way to check your understanding is by asking yourself if you have understood each paragraph before moving on. If there are questions that you still do not know the answers to, make sure that it is not because you are missing any of these details in your reading! In this passage, I annotated “Any additional details about his plan?” next to “his plan” because I still did not know what the plan was after reading two consecutive paragraphs. After checking, I am assured that this requires global comprehension, because the paragraph did not, in fact, give any additional details about this top-secret plan of Tom’s!

Looking at the above, I am sure you will be a lot more engaged with the story if you are constantly asking it questions and looking out for the answers.

3. Key Actions


When you see a sea of words in front of you, and there is time pressure to complete the questions, there is a natural tendency to ignore details simply make sure you get to the end of the passage. Even though that may seem helpful if you’re running out of time, it deprives you of fully envisioning what is happening in a passage, and thus affects how you understand what is happening. Bear in mind while you can skim for the general idea when you are reading a story leisurely, that is different from reading for exact and specific details to answer the comprehension questions posed after a passage.

What is the type of details which you need to pay attention to even when you are speed reading or skimming a passage quickly? One important type of details will be the key actions that are used in the story.

Let’s read the following passage with some of the key actions cancelled out. What do you understand from it?

3 Ways to Better Understand Your Comprehension Passage

I’m sure you got the point: Cody, a soccer player, helped his team win the match.

Now, let’s read the whole passage, with all of the key actions included.

3 Ways to Better Understand Your Comprehension Passage

So, which reading method will better help you understand the passage and answer the following question:

Q: How did Cody score the winning touchdown? [2m]

You guessed it, the answer is found in the highlighted actions, because the “how” question is asking for a description of the way and actions taken for Cody to score. Therefore, the answer is likely to be:

A: Cody intercepted a pass and ran all the way for the winning touchdown.

Those are what we consider key actions in the paragraph. Therefore, if you are truly pressed for time, you can read quickly but remember to pay attention to the key actions.

In fact, key actions usually support the key points in the paragraph. The key points in the above paragraph and their relevant key actions are identified in the table below.

3 Ways to Better Understand Your Comprehension Passage

Do note that you should always read the entire comprehension passage word for word if you can! This last tip is only for when you are running out of time. It will help you to provide at least an answer to the questions, instead of leaving it completely blank.

Well, that brings me to the end of my very first blog post! I hope you have enjoyed the read and found these tips helpful – go ahead and put them into practice the next time you read a comprehension passage! Have fun, and remember, English does not have to be a bore!


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